Construction sign on SR 18. (Cameron Sires/ Sound Publishing)

Construction sign on SR 18. (Cameron Sires/ Sound Publishing)

WSDOT responds to stakeholders about future I-90/SR 18 projects

Construction causes concerns about congestion for freight and commuter traffic.

In April, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) convened a meeting with stakeholders from East King County who expressed the need for increased communication around the upcoming Interstate 90 and State Route 18 projects due to construction creating an influx of freight and commuter traffic.

This meeting came after King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn sent a letter to WSDOT urging improved communication and traffic management. The letter was endorsed by several East King County officials and local government organizations.

The letter requested an intergency task force to work with WSDOT to provide feedback and mitigate traffic congestion during projects. Dunn told the Issaquah Reporter in a prior story that the task force would include traffic engineer experts, elected officials, key community leaders and transportation planners.

Throughout the meeting, stakeholders representing Snoqualmie, Black Diamond, Kent, Covington, Issaquah, Maple Valley, Renton, Snoqualmie Tribe, Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, Eastside Fire and Rescue and Northwest Port Alliance spoke of concerns about road maintenance, environmental impacts of construction, safety, cohesive communication, emergency services, major events, the impact on traffic and freight, and the economic impacts caused by construction.

The Regional Administrator at WSDOT, Brian Nielsen, also attended the meeting.

Some of the upcoming high-impact projects — scheduled from 2025 to 2029 — included in the discussion were the I-90 Eastbound Channel Bridge Modular Assembly Joints project, I-90 Eastbound Mercer Island Slough Bridge Rehabilitation, I-90 and SR 900 Fish Passage project, I-90 and SR 18 Interchange Improvements and Widening, SR 18 and Issaquah-Hobart Road to Deep Creek Widening, and the I-405 Renton to Bellevue project.

The questions posed by East King County stakeholders and the corresponding responses from WSDOT are from an outlined summary document detailing the April meeting.

Cohesive communications and emergency services

The stakeholders asked WSDOT to provide Eastside communities and businesses with active and preventative communication about accidents, closures and detours, suggesting WSDOT enable a “push notification” on its app to send quick alerts to various stakeholders, leading to better preparation.

WSDOT response: “The WSDOT app updates as incidents occur and automated tweets are generated on the appropriate X account. The majority of incidents clear before the information can be shared more broadly, but they are indicated on the WSDOT app. In the case of major incidents, the WSDOT PIO sends a travel advisory and freight alert to subscribers who have signed up for this service, which does include regional media.”

The stakeholders asked for support from WSDOT through inclusive communication practices, including directing the community to the WSDOT app, website and social media. The group also asked for WSDOT to conduct a meeting with the SR 18 Widening Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) — a group of representatives from state, tribal and local government, environmental and resource agencies and non-government organizations — to share recommendations and input about future project phases and decision-making.

WSDOT response: “We will forward you communication materials and links to primary communication resources that community leaders and businesses can forward to their stakeholders. We will also hold a TAC meeting for the SR 18 Widening project before the 2025 Legislative session to keep everyone involved in the communication and decision-making process.”

Major upcoming event and traffic impacts

The stakeholders inquired about additional details regarding major events coinciding with upcoming construction and the anticipated traffic impacts.

The group provided examples of increased activity that will affect traffic and construction. These events include the FIFA World Cup in 2026, which will be held during construction season and attract more than 3 million people; the opening of the new event center at Snoqualmie Casino in May 2025, targeted to service over 3,000 people; and North Bend’s new Wyndham Hotel and Mill site, both opening in the latter part of 2025.

WSDOT response: “WSDOT considered the World Cup, local events, and planned growth in the construction schedule(s). FIFA is developing its own tools to inform the public about events and WSDOT is collaborating with them as a partner. During the World Cup, contractors will have to work within parameters that exclude them from full road closures with the goal of moving people and goods around the state during this peak event.”

“For some large local events, we will also be limiting lane closures or lane reductions so people can travel a bit easier. Construction schedules cannot accommodate every event because of the limitations of things like permits and weather. For example, in-water work ‘windows’ and other environmental requirements limit the number of weeks our crews can work during the year. We can work to best accommodate events but the highway construction work must be done to enhance safety and mobility for all.”

Freight and economic impacts from construction

Stakeholders stated their concerns about congestion and commute times through I-90, SR 18, SR 202, SR 203 and other East King County corridors affecting or discouraging applicants from urban areas from choosing to work locally.

The stakeholders also noted the ongoing issue of freight providers being forced from freeways onto more localized routes due to congestion from construction. Stakeholders noted these uncharted paths push freights into school zones and other areas, compromising traffic flow.

WSDOT response: “We will work with community leaders to provide links to recommended sources of communication materials to inform residents, businesses, and constituents. We will also invite the Port to a future TAC meeting.”

The summarized document of the meeting listed action items expected to be completed by WSDOT:

• WSDOT to ask the WSDOT App Developer if push notifications for specific corridors would be possible to improve immediate communications for the community and emergency service providers.

• WSDOT to provide talking points about the six projects so community leaders are informed. They will also provide recommended links that direct people to WSDOT traffic resources.

• WSDOT to share the larger list of anticipated projects on the I-90 and SR 18 corridors, their traffic strategies and the PowerPoint presentation from the listening session.

• WSDOT to hold a follow-up meeting with this group and a separate TAC meeting for the SR 18 Widening project in fall 2024 to discuss key features of the construction projects along this corridor before the 2025 Legislative Session.

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